Tagged: Fraud squad

Former charity worker to leave Hartlepool after ‘losing fight’ for unpaid wages

> What can you do when an employment tribunal finds you were being paid less than the minimum wage and awards you compensation… but the employer doesn’t pay up ?  Very little, it seems…

A woman who was awarded thousands of pounds in compensation following a legal battle with town charity has given up ever getting her cash and is set to leave the town.

Lynda Gooding says she has simply “lost the fight” to get her money, and is so fed up with life in Hartlepool that she has put her house on the market.

She was awarded just under £9,000 in April last year after an employment tribunal heard she had worked for Manor Residents’ Association for almost three years on less than minimum wage.

More than 18 months after the ruling was made, mum-of-three Lynda is still to receive a penny from the charity.

Lynda said:

“I’ve been waiting 18 months. Well they can keep their dirty money now.

“It was never about me getting the money, it was the principle of it all. I would have split the cash between the grandkids.

“The house is up for sale, and the sooner I can get out of this town the better as far as I’m concerned. I’d move tomorrow.”

Lynda, who lives in Forfar Road with husband Kenny, a joiner for Housing Hartlepool, has not worked since leaving MRA in 2012.

She added: “Who is going to employ me?

“I’ve found myself at the centre of a row which became political through no fault of my own.

“The court ruled that the trustees owed money, and obviously the mayor was part of that board of trustees so all of a sudden it became a political issue.

“Then there was all the fuss over the charity, which doesn’t exist anymore, and all sorts of rumours were flying about over whether it was coming back under a new name or operating from somewhere else.

“It was just a complete mess, the trustees left one by one and there was nobody left to answer my questions.

“I never asked for that, all I’d done was take my employer to court and I won fair and square.

“It has played on my mind, I’ve been depressed, it’s amazing how much of an effect something like this can have on your sanity.

“But I’ve given up now, my fight is over. They were ordered to pay by a court and they haven’t paid. What else can I do?

“I feel let down, and question whether the tribunal was ever worth going through.

“If I’d known then what I know now, especially after what I witnessed at the council last Monday evening, then I wouldn’t have bothered.”

Lynda’s former colleagues Sharon Henderson, Carl Williams and Sue Harriman also won their own court battles, taking the total payout to more than £20,000.

The Charity Commission, which regulates charities in England and Wales, has since opened an inquiry into Manor Residents’ Association after concerns were raised about the way it was run.

At the time of the scandal the charity was run by Labour councillor Angie Wilcox, but she stood down from her role as a councillor before eventually leaving her role with MRA after being arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to steal and false accounting by fraud squad detectives.

She remains on bail while the inquiry continues.

Manor Residents’ Association has since ceased operating, and the organisation which has taken over the charity’s former building – Kilmarnock Road Children and Young People’s Family Resource Centre – has no links with it.

Source –  Hartlepool Mail,  20 Oct 2014

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Universal jobmatch – the choice of scammers everywhere

Fraud squad detectives are probing claims jobseekers were conned out of cash in an elaborate ‘Hustle-style’ scam from luxury city centre offices.

Applicants were interviewed by ‘Options 4 Families’ at a rented office in the Manchester One building on Portland Street, but heard nothing from the company after paying £65 for background checks upon offers of employment.

The £18.5k-a-year ‘trainee child counsellor’ jobs were even advertised on the government’s own Universal Jobmatch website – but the Department of Work and Pensions has since removed the adverts and has sent a warning to those who applied.

> Maybe they want to take a look at all those non-jobs that clutter up UJ – leaflet distributors, etc. But I suppose if they did, they’d have virtually nothing left – few respectable advertisers use UJ.

Other candidates are understood to have left their current jobs after being offered positions.

Burnley-based businessman John Sothern, 44, interviewed candidates at the start of January and is understood to have offered at least 12 people roles based in Manchester city centre following two days of interviews.

He is now at the centre of a police investigation – but denies any wrongdoing.

Greater Manchester Police were called to Manchester One by an interviewee on January 8 but Mr Sothern had fled the premises by the time officers arrived.

The M.E.N has spoken to jobseekers who were told they would begin their roles – which would increase to £34k-a-year after a training period – at the start of February but have still not heard from the company six weeks after transferring money.

Lancashire Police confirmed allegations regarding the Manchester-based jobs were passed to them by national agency Action Fraud on January 28.

It is understood a fraud probe into Mr Sothern’s activities is currently examining around 70 alleged offences across the north west.

A Lancashire Police spokeswoman said: “We can confirm officers have received a report in relation to an allegation of fraud. An investigation has been launched and enquiries are on-going in relation to this matter at this time.”

A Department of Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: “The vast majority of those employers offer genuine roles for jobseekers to apply for – however we won’t hesitate to ban anyone who tries to break the rules and post fraudulent jobs. When possible, it can – and has – led to criminal prosecutions.”

Options 4 Families was dissolved as a limited company in 2010.

 Matthew Bourton, 24, thought he’d finally ended his two-year search to find work when he was offered a ‘trainee child therapist’ job by Options 4 Families.

He applied through Universal Jobmatch and was interviewed just hours before police were called to the office on January 8.

Matthew, who has been out of work since leaving university, was offered the position the following day. He was then asked to provide a ‘refundable’ payment of £65.60 for a Disclosure and Barring Service background check to be carried out.

Six weeks later, he’s had no contact from the company.

Matthew, of Wigan Road, Leigh, said: “The job itself seemed too good to be true, but I’m so desperate to find work I was ready to believe everything I was being told. John Sothern was very friendly and charming. I gave my details for the bank transfer and that’s the last I’ve heard from them.

“I tried to get in touch with them but the number was a dead line. There was no mention of them on the internet apart from their own website and I came to the realisation that I’d been had. I feel taken advantage of and totally devastated.”

Businessman John Sothern insists job offers with Options 4 Families were genuine and he has done ‘nothing wrong’.

Mr Sothern is aware of a police investigation into the interview process at Manchester One but insists applicants will be given the jobs they were offered with Options 4 Families. He intends to contact candidates ‘within seven to 10 days’.

He said: “We’ve applied for funding with different organisations, including the Big Lottery Fund, and with private investors. As soon as we get that funding through, we’ll be in a position for people to start those jobs. We’ve had to put everything on hold but those people offered jobs will be getting e-mails – the jobs are still open. Background checks are standard industry practice and those people will get their money back.”

Source – Manchester Evening News,  03 Mar 2014